Latvia is sandwiched like a middle child between outgoing Lithuania and more reserved but tech-savvy Estonia. And like a middle child, it has been forging its own distinctive style, in this case since it regained independence after the demise of the Soviet Union. There is a sense of buoyant energy in the country but also a certain coarseness—qualities that are exemplified in the capital, Riga. The city's elegant and whimsical Jugendstil (art nouveau) buildings are surrounded by blocks of Soviet-era concrete structures and a sprawling industrial area.
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